Hizbullah (Hizb Allah, "Party of God", in Arabic)

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HIZBULLAH (Hizb Allah, "Party of God", in Arabic)

Lebanese Shiʿite Islamist movement, officially constituted in February 1985 but with roots reaching back to the beginning of the 1980s. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, a group encouraged by Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, the revolutionary Iranian government's ambassador in Syria, and led by Hussein Moussawi, formed a faction within AMAL, a Shiʿite group that had come under Syrian influence and become, in the Moussawi group's opinion, too conservative. This new group was known as the Islamic AMAL Faction. Three years later, under the guidance of Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, the leader of the disbanded Iranian-backed Hizb al-Daʿwa al-Islamiya (Islamic Appeal Party), this faction separated from AMAL to form Hizbullah. Fadlallah became its spiritual mentor, and the movement was swollen by the influx of the revolutionary guards (pasdaran) of Subhi Tufayli. Backed by Iran, Hizbullah advocated an Islamic regime in Lebanon and active resistance against the Israeli invasion and occupation of South Lebanon. Concurrently it set up a charity system that was much appreciated by the Lebanese Shiʿite population.

Between 1982 and 1988, in addition to fighting the Israelis, Hizbullah and its predecessor organizations also attacked Western troops. A multinational force had been deployed to protect the withdrawing Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1982 and it was brought back after the assassination of Bashir Jumayyil and the Israeli/Phalange massacre at Sabra and Shatila in September 1982. In 1983 American and French troops intervened in the ongoing civil war in favor of the Lebanese army, which was actually a partisan Maronite force. Hizbullah (under the name Islamic Jihad) is believed to have been responsible for suicide bombings that killed 241 American and 56 French soldiers in October 1983 and also kidnapped dozens of foreign nationals, especially Americans, to hold as hostages. Ransoms were paid in exchange for some of these, and others were executed. Some of these acts were meant to discourage further American assistance to Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988). They had no such effect, although one ransom paid by the administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan took the form of weapons sold to Iran for use against Iraq—part of what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. (Israel was known to be supplying weapons to Iran at the same time.) Between 1985 and 1989, Hizbullah also fought frequently with the Syrian-backed AMAL and maintained a constant state of high tension in South Lebanon through repeated attacks by the Islamic Resistance Army (al-Muqawama al-Islamiya al-Mussalaha), its military wing, against the South Lebanon Army (SLA), an Israeli proxy, and through firing regular salvos of rockets into the north of Galilee. These actions were sometimes coordinated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command. In August 1989 Hizbullah's leader in South Lebanon, Abdul Karim Obeid, was kidnapped by an Israeli commando; he was released in February 2004, along with Mustafa Dirani, who was captured in 1994.

In 1990, with the end of the Lebanese Civil War, Hizbullah refused to join the national government, believing that the government was not committed to expelling the Israelis and that Shiʿites continued to be discriminated against, as they had been in the past. Although all Lebanese militias were to disarm under the Taʾif Accord, Hizbullah refused and the government was not strong enough to force it to. Hizbullah did, however, confine its military activity to fighting Israel and the SLA in the south. In the meantime, dissension developed within the movement as a consequence of internal power struggles in Tehran. In 1986 two currents appeared in Hizbullah, a minority headed by Hassan Nasrallah, siding with Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, Hizbullah's original Iranian patron and now the former Iranian minister of the interior; and the majority led by Subhi Tufayli and Abbas al-Moussawi favoring the Iranian president, Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. During October 1989 members close to Fadlallah were dismissed from their positions because of conflict between Fadlallah and Ayatollah Ali Khamenehi, the successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, who had died in June. In November, Tufayli became secretary general of Hizbullah, which led to divisions between his followers and Fadlallah's. Hoping to take control of the movement, Syria attempted to amplify these dissensions. In 1991 Tufayli lost the leadership of the movement to Moussawi, who was assassinated on 16 February 1992 by an Israeli commando. The post of secretary general was filled by Hassan Nasrallah, who favored active involvement in Lebanese politics. He succeeded to the extent of having eight Hizbullah-backed candidates (including two Sunnis and two Christians) elected to the Lebanese parliament in 1992, the first general election since before the civil war. In July 1993 a Hizbullah attack killed two Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers and the Israelis responded with a week's bombardment that killed 139 Lebanese and left 250,000 homeless.

In January 1994 confrontations in Baalbek between the Tufayli and Nasrallah factions clearly revealed the internal divisions in the movement. Tufayli opposed the integration of Hizbullah into Lebanese politics, advocating struggle against Israel even if the latter were to withdraw from South Lebanon. In 1996, in response to more Hizbullah rocketing of the Galilee, the Israelis launched Operation Grapes of Wrath against targets near Beirut and in South Lebanon, including a United Nations base where 100 Palestinian refugees were killed; 400,000 Lebanese were left homeless. In November 1997, anticipating an Israeli retreat from South Lebanon and preparing to participate in Lebanese political life, Hizbullah's leadership launched an appeal to Lebanese of all confessions to join with them in a broad-based national resistance. New recruits were inducted into a unit formed especially for them, the Lebanese National Resistance Brigade.

Attacks against Israel were especially heavy in 1997 and 1998. In February 1998, accused of wanting to divide the movement, Tufayli was expelled from Hizbullah. In May 1999 Ehud Barak won the prime ministerial election in Israel by promising to withdraw the IDF from Lebanon. On 13 January 2000 Israel freed twenty-seven Lebanese, including twelve Hizbullah members, who had been detained for months in SLA prisons. On 30 January the second-in-command of the SLA, Colonel Aki Hashem, was killed in a Hizbullah bombing. Between 17 and 20 May 2000, after Israel had officially informed the United Nations of its decision to withdraw its troops from South Lebanon before 7 July, intense artillery duels occurred between Hizbullah forces and the IDF. On 21 May, weakened by many desertions, the SLA abandoned a number of positions, which were immediately occupied by the Hizbullah. In the 2000 parliamentary elections, Hizbullah and AMAL ran a combined list of candidates and won the majority of the constituencies in the south and the Beqaa Valley.

In October 2000 the leadership of Hizbullah claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Switzerland of an Israeli reserve officer, who was later used in a prisoner exchange with Israel. On 7 August 2001 the advisory council of the movement reelected Shaykh Nasrallah as secretary general of Hizbullah. Shaykh Naim Qassem was also reelected assistant secretary general, Hassan Khalil political counselor, Ibrahim Amin al-Sayed head of the political section, and Muhammad Yazbek director of religious affairs. Hashem Saffieddin was named head of the executive council, Jawad Noureddin director of coordination of resistance activities, and Nabil Qawuk leader of the movement for South Lebanon. Hizbullah has continued to attack Israel with rockets and artillery, both in the Shabaa Farms area of southern Lebanon, which it still occupies, and across the border, occasionally provoking a severe response. Hizbullah continues to receive support from Iran and Syria, which sees it as almost the only group that has had any success against Israel, and it has become the major Shiʿite political and social organization in southern Lebanon.

SEE ALSO AMAL;Barak, Ehud;Fadlallah, Shaykh Muhammad Husayn;Grapes of Wrath Operation;Iran-Iraq War;Jumayyil, Bashir;Maronites;Palestine Liberation Organization;Phalange;Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command;Sabra and Shatila;South Lebanon;South Lebanon Army;Tufayli, Subhi Ali al-.